Consider Phlebas

Discussion in 'Iain M Banks' started by biodroid, Mar 23, 2009.

  1. Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy Knivesout no more

    Joined:
    Nov 11, 2003
    Messages:
    4,068
    Location:
    Bangalore, India
    I'm currently in the process of reading, in some cases -rereading, all of Banks' SF.

    I've just finished Consider Phlebas.

    I'm surprised some readers came to like Horza - I found him to be a ruthless, mainpulative, self-serving dupe who doesn't even realise he's on the wrong side, given what he really is, until he has destroyed the lives of everyone unfortunate enough to come within his sphere of influence.

    I can understand someone finding the novel distasteful because of Horza, but I'd say that's one of the things that made this novel interesting, the way it played against type, where the protagonist of a space opera is usually also its hero. There's no hero here, the MacGuffin everyone is flailing about searching for makes little difference to the outcome of the Culture-Idiran conflict and we're very starkly shown the human toll of armed conflict, particularly in those searing final chapters.

    A good novel, complex not just in plot and setting, and I'm glad I finally got around to reading it. I'll be re-reading The Player Of Games next.
     
  2. Rodders

    Rodders |-O-| (-O-) |-O-|

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2008
    Messages:
    3,403
    I always felt that IMB made the Culture the star of this book and not Horza. The Orbital, the beach cult, the mega ships and the Culture's philosophy.

    Horza's character was just a vehicle that was used to set up the premise of the Culture.
     
    james lanfear likes this.
  3. witchfynder

    witchfynder Member

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2010
    Messages:
    10
    This is an old thread, but I just wanted to say that I read Consider a while back and I struggled with it. I shall pick it up again tonight and try again. It ahs beena while aafter all.
     
  4. J-Sun

    J-Sun

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Messages:
    4,596
    I read this quite awhile ago now (a few months, anyway) but somehow missed this thread. I thought two scenes were stretched out unconscionably long: the 'flying through the Death Star' scene (giant ship or whatever) and the climactic train scene. But they were still pretty good; especially the latter. (The 'irresistible ship meets immovable mountain' (or whatever) scene was also a bit drawn out, but less so, and was really good.) IOW, most of his large action set-pieces are inefficient.

    More importantly, I almost put the book down during the completely gratuitous and off-the-scale Eater chapter (that several others have mentioned) that could have been deleted entirely with nothing but benefits.

    However, I found the dynamics created by having the reasonably honorable enemy be the 'pro'tagonist to be very interesting. But I think Rodders has a good point and the Culture, as depicted, was very interesting. And the book had more density than many books - the people, places, and events live in the mind more firmly than many books' do. So I'm still fairly ambivalent about it, but will definitely be reading more. Very glad I read this (except for the one chapter), at least.

    Good luck witchfynder - hope you find it ultimately rewarding. As far as the struggling, while I didn't have a problem with it, I've heard that, despite being the first, it may not actually be the best introduction to the Culture. So perhaps that has something to do with it.
     
  5. Vertigo

    Vertigo Mad Mountain Man

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2010
    Messages:
    6,334
    Location:
    Scottish Highlands
    Further to J-Sun's comment I must admit that I liked this book but also that it wasn't the first Culture book I read. I read all of these some time ago and in no particular order. At the time I wasn't reading very much and just used to buy a book I hadn't read when I was travelling, so it tended to be whatever I found in the shop at the airport/rail station. So maybe there's some truth to J-Suns comment. I think the first Culture book I read was Player of Games, but I recall still being a bit confused until after my second Culture book, which was I think Look to Windward.
     
  6. End of Line

    End of Line Member

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2011
    Messages:
    6
    I think you will find that there are one or two fans out there, roaming the wild, living off scraps scavanged from "greatest compilations of......." books.
     
  7. Toby Frost

    Toby Frost Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2008
    Messages:
    3,355
    I thought this was a very good book. It's nice to see quality space opera with good characters that doesn't feel the need to bog itself down in trying to make its science realistic. The only bit that feels superfluous is the chapter involving the Eaters, who could be easily removed (FWIW, I've heard a rumour that Banks himself doesn't much like this chapter, but I don't know whether it's true).

    Weaknesses? Horza's dislike of the Culture seems a bit thin, and the scenes involving a Culture agent considering the situation on a mountain are slightly forced into the plot. I don't get Banks' humour that much, although other people find his spaceship names hilarious, so each to their own. The plot meaders somewhat, but it's a continually intriguing meander.

    Overall, I thought this was a very entertaining and satisfying read. The Idirans make good villains (Martian invader meets WW2 Japanese officer), and the crew of the CAT seemed like a mix of the soldiers from Aliens and the crew of Firefly. As to whether Horza is a bad or weak man, it's hard to say. But that uncertainty, I think, just strengthens the book, which takes space opera and makes it ask a lot of interesting questions.
     
  8. Andrew Short

    Andrew Short Science fiction fantasy

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2012
    Messages:
    15
    This was one of the first of Banks' books I read and its one of the best. Considering that this was his first culture book its stood up very well
     
  9. Coolhand

    Coolhand Spiff's Stunt Double

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2006
    Messages:
    495
    Just finished Consider Phlebas, after picking it up on a rain-soaked trip to Hay-on-Wye for the bargain price of £3.

    (If you live in the UK and you've not been to Hay-on-Wye, you've GOT to check it out. More second hand bookshops than I can shake a stick at, and I can shake a stick at a lot of bookshops.

    Yep. My feelings as well. So far I've read Use of Weapons, Against a Dark Background, Look to Windward and Transition (I'm sorry, Transition is a S/F book inside and out, I have no idea why there isn't an "M" in the title. :p )
    Out of all them them, CP is by far my favourite. I've been sat here trying to work out why, and I think that's mostly due to do with limits as a reader.

    See, every single Banks book has stuff I love. Wild imagination, cool technology, wry humour and the occasional spot of toe-curling horror. But often I come away feeling somewhat unfulfilled. If I had to pin it down, I'd say that the books never seem to go anywhere. They tend to be full of cool scenes that whilst fun to read on their own, never seem to be bolted to a compelling driving narrative. With most Banks books, I was never turning the page at 1 in the morning because I had to know what happened next. I'd usually read a couple of scenes, think "that was cool," then wander off to do something else.

    The books were always very impressive. But I never loved them.

    My favourite Banks book until this point had been Against A Dark Background because it had a direction and a plot (The Quest for the Lazy Gun), and it felt like the book therefore had a solid narrative scaffold to which all the cool stuff could be affixed.

    Much Like AADB, Consider Phlebas has all of the vivid, crazy imagination, the cool tech and the shock moments of Banks, but it's all set against a driving narrative, the quest for the lost mind. That allowed me to click with the book. I genuinely found myself spending hours on the sofa, reading and re-filling coffee, until I had the thing polished off and done. That probably speaks more to my limits as a reader than anything else, but either way, I finally found a Banks book that I love.

    So, next up: The Player of Games. Coffee and sofa on standby...
     
  10. clovis-man

    clovis-man Prehistoric Irish Cynic

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2007
    Messages:
    2,251
    Good choice. I think this one might be in your wheelhouse also.
     
  11. Kapelvig

    Kapelvig Christmas Isthmus

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Messages:
    36
    I've read Consider Phlebas and The Player of Games and thought they were both excellent. I'd already read a few of Banks' non sci-fi stuff. I think it's great for a writer to be able to span the genres like that (even if he does have to put an 'M' in his name to do it!)

    I've been meaning to start Use of Weapons for ages now - hopefully over Christmas!
     
  12. Grunkins

    Grunkins Couch Commander

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2012
    Messages:
    620
    Agreed. It definitely has a more "straight" plot progression; a more coherent plot.
    My favorite of the Banks books is probably his least plotty, Excession (though I've pretty much loved them all).
     
  13. Coolhand

    Coolhand Spiff's Stunt Double

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2006
    Messages:
    495
    Cool. I'm actually quite looking forward to Excession as well, simply because it appears to be largely about the Minds and the ships, and I really enjoy that particular aspect of Culture.

    Start Use of Weapons as soon as you can. I have my problems with it (I posted a review of it ages ago in the Chrons) but it's full of the great imagination and vivid scenes that make Banks' books so memorable. Most people seem to cite it as their favourite M book, so odds are you'll enjoy it.
     
  14. Kapelvig

    Kapelvig Christmas Isthmus

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2012
    Messages:
    36
    Sounds great - I'll definitely make it my next read! :)
     
  15. AndrewT

    AndrewT Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2012
    Messages:
    136
    I just finished this today and posted my review at Goodreads:

    http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/563884924

    It has a few minor spoilers. I like Banks on the whole and whole but this book needed an editor who would force a few changes, some of which have been mentioned in this thread.

    Moving on to book two.
     
  16. Brian G Turner

    Brian G Turner He's a very naughty boy! Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 23, 2002
    Messages:
    19,186
    Location:
    Highlands
    I've started this, and am up to page 75, but I'm struggling to read on.

    The protagonist so far, Horza, has no apparent motivation. He just drifts from one scenario into another, with no apparent cares, needs, or interests.

    For example, he had to fight to earn a place on the CAT. Fine. Now the CAT crew decide to attack a "Temple of Light". Horza has murdered at least one monk, but so far, his only real comment has been about the poor equipment.

    It just seems kind of aimless montage of events - not least a long fight scene with no real stakes to make any of it meaningful to make me care.

    I can accept Horza might be an anti-hero, but he's a very dull one so far.

    I appreciate I'm going to come across as whingey and negative, and it's only the first 75 pages - it's just that it seems very pulpy so far, and I was expecting something a little more imaginative.

    By comparison, I also picked up another Lee Child book at the same time - and the first two pages were masterful.
     
  17. The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

    Joined:
    Nov 10, 2008
    Messages:
    8,237
    Location:
    nearly the New Forest
    More thoughts about it here, Brian, which might be of interest http://www.sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/548928-consider-phlebas-by-iain-m-banks.html

    I wouldn't agree Horza had no motivation -- on the contrary, he knows what he has to do and intends to do it. I did, though, have real problems with the journey Banks sends him on to complete the mission, involving long sequences which add little or nothing to the actual plot.



    EDIT: that link doesn't seem to work any longer, so here it is again http://www.sffchronicles.com/threads/548928/#post-1827984
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2014
  18. BetaWolf

    BetaWolf Keith A. Manuel

    Joined:
    Mar 26, 2013
    Messages:
    528
    I'd heard good things about Banks, and read his last interview. So, i picked up Use of Weapons and could not really fathom it. It was very dreamlike and out of order, so I guess that threw me. I'll try another one though.
     
  19. J-Sun

    J-Sun

    Joined:
    Oct 23, 2008
    Messages:
    4,596
    His motivation is to oppose the monolithic assimilative Culture.

    Nah, I think 75 pages should be more than enough to get a book "sold" to its reader. Granted, Reynolds is very bad at this and a couple of his books have turned out okay in the long run but there's little excuse to "wind up" for hundreds of pages. If you don't like this Banks yet, you may not overall because, but for a chapter, I recall it being pretty consistent though, of course, I got more interested and involved as it went. But the fundamental "I'm into this" didn't take too long. It has a pulp joie de vivre but I didn't find it pulpy at all. Pulps don't have anti-heros and complex Balvedas and so on. But it is neo-pulpy, I guess. As far as imaginative, maybe not in terms of some of the action sequences but I thought the milieu itself - the Culture, the aliens, the drones, etc., were neat. And this came out in 1987. Reynolds and Asher and all the rest didn't exist yet and old Space Opera was long gone, so this was pretty bold. About the nearest predecessor was Sterling's Schimatrix from a couple of years earlier but of a very different angle and approach to the scope. But most Banks fans don't seem to like this one a whole lot and I don't like most Banks a whole lot aside from this one, so my opinion may not be good for much. If you don't like it, you don't like it. That's valid. If you don't hate it, maybe try one more. A lot of people will say Player of Games which I very much disliked. I'd say my second favorite or least disliked or most interesting other was Use of Weapons.
     
  20. Grunkins

    Grunkins Couch Commander

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2012
    Messages:
    620
    There are people who dislike Consider Phlebas but love the Culture series. Player of Games is a very different animal (actually, almost all of them are different from one another, Banks always made sure to be doing something fresh). If the first turns you off, I recommend giving the second a look before you turn away from the series.
     
Loading...

Share This Page

Loading...